Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Steinbeck Collector Wins Big at Auction

There are book collectors like me who feel guilty about paying more than $50 for a book and then there are book collectors like Jim Dourgarian who jump at a chance to buy five personally inscribed John Steinbeck first editions in one 30-minute span.

By the end of the auction Sunday, Dourgarian was the owner of five first editions from the collection of Elizabeth Steinbeck Ainsworth, the author's sister. Another buyer paid $47,800 for a copy of Steinbeck's Depression-era masterpiece "The Grapes of Wrath,'' which is believed to be the world record for an auction sale of a Steinbeck novel.
... Dourgarian made the time to jump into the auction and ended up with five first editions, including a copy of Steinbeck's first book, the 1929 "Cup of Gold,'' which he purchased for $21,510.

The price is a relative bargain for a book that's truly a one-of-a-kind piece for collectors, he said.

"These are the last of the closely held family books,'' Dourgarian said. "There's not a lot to trump his sister's copy, inscribed by Steinbeck.''

While the book and its garish cover, a bright picture of a pirate, is in less-than-pristine condition, it's an example of a book that was read and loved by the person who received it.

"Steinbeck and his sister were readers, and the books show it,'' Dourgarian said. "They weren't just bought to be put away.''

While I know that I will never be able to participate in something like this Steinbeck family auction, I sincerely appreciate those who spend their money on something that they love and want to preserve for future generations...even if these eventually get sold to another collector I have to believe that they will continue to be in good hands.


  1. I have always been a little perturbed by this mania for first edtions: whether it is a first edition or a twenty first edition the words within the book are the same, that is what is really important.Do we want the book trade in first editions to mimic the fine art market? At least with art you can hang it on your wall and admire it as a work of art.
    The good news is that(over here anyway) a lot of these collectors leave books to their old schools/library collections after they have passed away.

  2. Collectors and Readers are not necessarily the same thing. Nor are those who must use the library to supplement book cravings and those who can afford these prizes. I'm glad someone cares enough about the books to purchase them and care for them, but Whew! what a lotta money for an old book. :)

  3. Nick...I have to admit that I'm a first edition collector of certain authors and it's hard to explain why now that I think about it. I've always been a collector of "something" and I suppose that I've just gotten used to the standars of whatever it is that I collect. I don't collect really valuable books but I do get a kick out of spotting a new author really early who is going to prove to be very popular. I have a few first editions of that type that have attained decent values as a result of small first printings. And one of the ones I'm proudest of finding and grabbing is multiple first edition copies of Toni Morrison's "Beloved" which won the Pulitzer Prize a few months after I found them. I was aware that she had been nominated and just had a feeling it was her year. I'm about ready to take a couple of them to the next book show to see what I can trade them for.

    Jenclair...I hear you. As one who feels that good and beautiful things should be saved for future generations I'm just happy to know that there are collectors willing to pay that kind of money for books. That means that they are "precious" to someone and that they will be well cared for at least for now. But I have to admit that I take more pleasure in reading a good book than I do in owning a valuable one, one that I'd be afraid to ever take off the shelf for fear of damaging it.